Friday, September 30, 2016

Heading to Africa

This is my Last E-mail day in the United States, that is insane. And I know I am for sure leaving because I got my flight plans! They are different than everyone else going to Benin except for my two companions and Elder Dorsey from the other district. But our flights are so much better than everyone else's! We leave the MTC at 11:00ish in the morning on Tuesday the 4th while everyone else leaves the MTC at 8ish in the morning. They all go to Chicago and then to Paris and we, the four of us, have a direct flight from Salt Lake to Paris, so they leave three hours before us and we beat them to Paris by five minutes, then we all take the same flight to Cotonou. It is over 20 hours of travel. I sure hope this time I don't get switched to a different place again. But I really have loved the Provo MTC, I might have died in Ghana.

The MTC general conference choir is so cool. I absolutely love the practices and our two directors. It was really serious but really spiritual. In these last few practices when I have been singing my favorite song were doing, Joseph Smith's First Prayer, I have had two experiences where when I was just listening to the song as we sang and I felt a warm kind of chills and a teared up and the spirit witnessed to me that the first vision of Joseph Smith was true and now on Saturday I can share that same experience with millions of people, I am so excited. If you are curious, if you are looking at the choir, like the director, I am on the far right section in the middle ish. This week was kind of weird I had the last lessons with my 2 MTC investigators, it is weird how if you do roll play right, even though these two people were my teachers, it felt like I was teaching someone different, I guess that's the point. But there were many times when it was real and the lessons we taught and the emotions had were real. It was so sad to say goodbye to these fake people because all we did every day was think about their needs, prepare to teach them, and teach them. I cant imagine how hard it will be to say goodbye to the real investigators in Africa.

A cool thing happend this week the devotional on Tuesday was given by Elder Schwitzer! He was the 70 who came to my stake for this last stake conference in June where I was asked to speak at the adult session. He talked to me in June and said I will be a great missionary, I dont know if he was right, but it was really cool to see him now that I am a missionary.

I dont know if I ever told you about Patricia or TRC before, but TRC is a thing we do every week where we go and teach a volunteer member a lesson in French. They are usually RM's, but we have taught old ladies too. This is not roll play this is practicing teaching a real person and practicing French. There is also two weeks of Skype TRC where we get to skype somone who speaks French, usually somone in France and teach them a lesson over the computer, a very useful exercise for us going to Africa. Our first skype lesson was bad. We got assigned a old french lady who lives in Paris named Patricia. the connection was horrible we couldn't hear anything she said, It was so bad I had to put my face out of the screen and cry laugh as she told us a 2 minute long story and all we heard was " ba da ................ sa...... and the missionaries were super cute and..........d.........aeee......................and I love base ball.......a...........................de................a......" and by the way she only spoke English to us because she thought our French was not great and every time we said anything she would correct us and show us how to say it right. It was bad. We walked away feeling very discouraged. The next week we had another skype TRC and determined to make it better we prayed long and hard about what to teach and asked for help to be assigned the right person for our message and I thought maybe teaching something out of the Joseph Smith history would be good, because I had been having such great experences at choir with that song. We all prayed and thought it was a good idea and we went into TRC and got assigned Patricia again! So before we called her Elder Segal prayed
fervently please please help us. And then we called and wow, I can not describe to you how much that lesson changed my idea of missionary work. Everything about that lesson was different, the connection was great. she still spoke English and corrected our French, she was the same person but during the opening prayer, her phone rang and and it was her mom. After she hung up she told us how her mother was sick and had dementia and was losing her mind and Patrica was so sad that this person whose body was her mom was not her mom anymore because she gave up fighting, she showed us an old picture of her mom showing us how she remembered her looking. We just went with our lesson which was using the example of Joseph Smith to prepare to receive personal revelation at general confrence and she told us after we were
done and had born testimony in an unforgetable language that she said "I know the Lord is with you" because the scripture and lesson were exacly what she needed to find out what to do with her mom she was so amazed. And it was sad having to say goodbye and go to Africa she said when we watch President Eyring's talk in confrence we should think of her because she will be thinking of us. She says she is so excited to see us all in this life, or if not in the life to come and boy was that lesson a booster for me and my companions and I know I had nothing to do with it, it was the Lord using his childen to teach each other. She taught me more in those two 20 minute lessons than I could imagine and the Lord, though us taugh her, it was amazing.


My favorite painting here
 
Cliché map pointing picture 
A really funny sign for a broken toilet
 
Abbott took this pic, he was trying to be artsy 
Me and Abbott
"The Benin Boys"
16 all going to Benin, Cotonou Mission (+ Elder Juganikloo going to Madagascar)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Singing and the Rain

I can not believe how fast time flies at the MTC I thought the first weeks were flying by, but this week was incredibly fast. I have heard people in the past say "I feel like this happened just yesterday". Well, never have I felt that untill I've been here. If my whole mission goes this fast I will be so sad because my mission will be over tomorrow.

One amazing thing happened this week, I got a new assiginment! I was assigned to sing in the MTC choir for General Conference. We are supposed to sing on the Saturday afternoon session. Our choir is mixed and has about 300 singers even though 1600 people wanted to be in it. Because the spots in the choir are in such high demand the first practice was intense they said things like:
-bring your invitation letter to every practice, if you don't you get kicked out.
-you need to come to every practice on time, if you are late or miss any you get kicked out.
-if you don't try hard, if you talk or don't mark your music, you get kicked out.
-you need to memorize all 4 songs by next Thursday which means any free time you have has to be focused on choir

All this strictness makes sense because the Thursday before Conference there will be someone who will come hear the choir. If we don't amaze, we will be replaced by MoTab and our director Brother Eggett says that has happened in the past. But other then all that, choir is great! We sound super good. Most choirs get 4 months to prepare, but we have 8 days. Brother Eggett says we can do it because we are missionaries, so I'm so excited. I am a Bass II where I belong and I hope Haas and Knutson are proud of me.

Also, Il pleut! It rained a few times this week which was great because Freire Ritchie tells us stories about Africans and the rain. He says everything shuts down when it rains and he says that when you go do missionary work people think the missionaries are insane because the go out in the rain. When they go to their appointments the people are shocked that the appointment was not automatically cancelled because of the rain. Missionaries say "is it okay that we come in and teach?" and the bewildered Africans say "mais il pelut" which means "but its raining!" So we always tease that everything we are doing (in class) has to stop because it is raining, it's so fun.

I try to have a personal experience each day and 2 dyas ago we learned that when you pray in French you should use the subjunctive tense and it's a super complicated tense and I still don't understand it but I was asked to pray and practice using only subjunctive phrases. When I prayed I felt that my prayer was heard. I say 30-40 prayers out loud every day and I'm sure they are listened to, but that one specifically I could feel someone listening and it was super powerful to know that I can pray sincerely and receive answers in not one, but 2 languages which is so cool.

- I thought that last email was deleated so I typed it again but I'm so angry I wasted my whole hour on this so that's why the spelling is so bad ugh.

Me with a counselor in my branch, he is so nice to me.

Il Pleut!

Friday, September 16, 2016

I got fired

I am no longer the district leader, I got replaced Sunday. I must have gotten the hang of it because that's when they say they replace you. 
I got to see Elder Brady Koogler a few times this week and talk to him. It's great to see the Iowa City first ward boys going to spread the gosple. 
The most amazing thing has happened. I got to see 3 apostles in 7 days Christofferson, Ballard, and Cook all came back to back for devotionals. It is an increasingly better experience every time. I think I'm really growing up here; little by little I feel like my faith and spirit are growing and I love it.
Half of our branch left on Monday, they were all replaced on Wednesday with like 24 new elders and sisters. We have the new zone leaders in my district, (Elders Ellison and Peterson). We are now some of the oldest in the branch and it's great to be on top of the heap. 
My lessons are going good. When all you do is study French, the gosple and teach, you get better at teaching. One lesson this week Alice said she didn't want to be baptized anymore. We were able to figure out why and tried to help her out on the fly and I think we did well. And this last lesson with Ohspice was the best I've taught so far. 
One funny thing here is Elder Dorsy in the other district likes to free style rap at nights. I'm the only one who puts my self out there to beat box. I'm not great, but because no one else shows me up, I'm praised as the best beat boxer in the zone by default, it's great!
Only 2-ish more weeks before Africa, I can't believe it, super scared but super excited!

Elder Abbott and Elder Vincent showing us the booty
Me with Elder Koogler, Iowa City First Ward taking on the world
Me holding the same book with the first missionary
My companions on P-day 
(Note from Kaelyn - Preparation Day is my favorite day, it is when Riley gets to write to me!)
We call this the brain download
(Note from Kaelyn - I have no idea what this means)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Christofferson!

I cant belive it. I got see, sing to, and be in the same room as Elder D. Todd Christofferson. On Tuesday night everyone expected a memeber of the 12 and I was excited for any one of them. When the rooom changed and we alll stood up and I saw the beaming smile of my favorite apostle walking into the room where I was sitting, I was so happy and so great! God knows me. My favorite thing he said was that we, the missionaries, are companions with the 12, that is so cool. It's great to know Christofferson has my back. That was by far the best thing this week.
It's really hard to describe the atmosphere here at the mtc. It is a super bizarre bubble where people who are here for just a few weeks are super old and when your new you know nothing yet and none of us are yet in the field. It's wierd 
Some things about this place:
-the sisters in one bulding had to move out because of a bat infestation and we also saw bats flying round the room in a language seminar.
-the other speker this week was Chad Lewis, I guess he was a football player. I don't know, but I'm sure you've heard of him. 
-It's really funny that everyone is called by where they are going. So everyone callls us "the africans" and the districts that are about to leave our zone are "the Frenchies". We sleep on the same dorm floor with a buch of spaniards "spanish speakers" and I don't know what kind of air they are breathing across the hall but they are always crazy. They never go to bed I swear they take shifts banging on the walls and screaming all hours of the night. 
-My laundry sitiuation is weird. Each time I have done laundry I've lost somthing! I dont know how! I check in the machines, but things just disappear! The first week I lost a pair of underwear the second time I lost a sock. My companions say that's just how it works. The sock monster is real and it always gets what it wants, so that is so weird, but the rest of my clothes get clean. 
In other news my two investigators are great! Ohspice and Alice are learning lots. Teaching in French is the hardest thing I have to do here, but it's great because I learn! love you!

-Elder Larson

Cafeteria grub

The sock monster took my laundry

Classroom (I spend most my day here)

Me with Abbott 


Friday, September 2, 2016

II

September 2, 2016
II

Thank you so much for the dear elders. I can read those every day I would prefer those so I can get daily updates and pre-write my email responses so send more please. 

To answer some questions:
-Choir is good it's so big! I got assigned as a tenor the first day because that was the only seat left.  There are 1,600 people in it. 
-I eat in the cafeteria and the food is okay people complain but it's fine. I try to eat everything because I know its better than the fish I'll have eat later.
-I have tons of contact with my district. I'm with them the majority of each day and we are really close they seem to like me as a district leader and we laugh and bond a lot. They are great. Especially Elder Vincent who is so funny, and Elder Peterson who is one of the nicest, kind genuine person I have ever met. 
-I am really sad that the babies were looking for me I'm so glad Davis is singing Rocky Top!
I still don't think things have set in yet. 

Just some fun things that go on here are Elder Jensen sings rock songs in the shower every day and every one jams out and sings along it's really fun. I, along with my district, keep messing up on the one rule which is "avoid using slang and inappropriate casual language". We all say dude and man all the time when we were told to use "elder" but it's hard to stop because we are all good friends already.

My companions and I are super close and have running jokes Elder Linderman has only gotten 2 letters here and they were both from his ex-girlfrind's mom and he hates that she is the only one so it's funny. He also chews up his pens and only has a few more and he brought 5 ties and they are all blue so he's funny. 

Elder Segal is super smart and nice and gets massive letters from all the ladies and has an opinion on everything including which style of garden is best french or english, I didn't even know there was more than one type of flower garden but he prefers french, so he's high class. 

By the way someone is sending my massive food packages, I dont know who it is but I've gotten two huge ones full of snack foods and drinks and one had Dr. Pepper in it and I rose to the top of the ranks on our floor because I had caffeine and that is in high demand here so it's similar to prison in that way. But thank you who ever that is!

I had some amazing experences teaching this week. We finshed teaching our first 'investigator' Alice, in 5 lessons we got her to commit to a baptism date on the 19th of September but the 4th lesson I bore my testimony to her in french because I felt like my experience in gaining a testimony could help her and how I'm still trying to receive answers from God and through me the holy spirt gave her chills. A member faking to be an investigator was able to feel the spirt and tear up because the spirit worked through me it was really great.
There are also these excellent MTC only talks we can watch by Elder Bednar called "The Charcter of Christ" it's so  amazing. We get to watch it on Sundays. 

I've been here a week which means there are new guys now so now I'm a sophomore and know everything about this place, which is great. I'm sure there is stuff I missed but things are good, sorry for the spelling. I miss home but am not home sick I'm just thinking of the members of my district and my investigators more than me.

Send dear elders!

-Elder Larson
We are all going to Benin along with 5 elders in another district. We are all super close, the 11 of us spend almost all day in this tiny classroom. Frere Ritchie is super fun, we joke around so much there is not one day that goes by without some belly laughs.

Me at the Temple

​A drawing I made of the plan of happiness, the plan is in the shape of a smiling face